Tag Archives: John Atkins

Impregnable BBC, Tate Too!

Every week I see famous folk sit on programmes at the Beeb and talk about their latest book. I turn to my wife and assure her its ok they’ll be doing a special feature about my book(s) tomorrow. But as you know tomorrow never comes. I decided to do something about it instead of moaning all the time. I shall write to a book programme at Beeb I thought. So I prepared this letter:

To “Open Book, BBC Radio 4, Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA

I am an artist/author and have recently written, illustrated, designed and published a new book, The Shrewd Idiot. I would like to have it considered for a slot on your book programme. Below are two blogs about its launch in Colchester Arts Centre. I shall be doing another (London) Launch at the Book Art Book shop near Old St station on 26 January 2018

The first blog is about the launch gig:


This second one has some great photos of the gig but you’ll have to skip all my mention of a Van gig I went to see in Birmingham. I live near Colchester so can get into London easily if anyone wishes to see my book(s).


Then I went on th’Internet to get the email of someone I could send it to. Their page politely informed me that they don’t review books but I could join a writers group and write to a title then submit it to see if I could gain a commission for a play or drama etc. But that’s not what am interested in. I’ve done the writing, laid out the pages and published the book to my own high expectations and I just want a couple of minutes on The One Show or Graham Norton to talk to the viewers about my efforts and the books’ contents and the beautiful (I think) art in them. But like you, I know it’s never going to happen.

hens teeths

*[I know, you know, we all know my chances of getting ‘exposure’ in any institutional outlet; galleries, TV, radio, shops etc is about as possible as hens growing teeth…and I mean big teeth like a lions! But I like to embarrass them by having the temerity to arsk to be let in. In fact I have had considerable ‘success’ over the past 50 years since I began my work as a thinking adult and am not complaining.]

And The Tate too!

Each time I publish a book with an ISBN number I show it to reps of the Tate bookshop, the most recent being of course The Shrewd Idiot the guy got back to me and said, “I can see great effort has been expended but it’s a pass from me I’m afraid.” I can understand his reluctance because afterall they wouldn’t sell at Tate cos am not famous. It’s not just Tate that’s hard to get a foot in the door to. It’s most all of them, I know, I have tried for 50 years. I had to learn to do without them. I survived. I already had more than 21 solo exhibitions in my adopted homeland, Essex. In some quarters they call me Burnley Pete. But I only lived in Bly for 15 years, 1954-69 and I have lived in Essex since 1973, that’s 44 years and counting. However you can take the boy out of Lancashire but you can’t take the Burnley out of this lad. I still speak in th’dulcit tones of ma home town and am proud to have spent my formative years there where I learned a lot.

I do have some good news, Rough Trade. Rough Trade have taken a copy of The Shrewd Idiot into their Brick Lane shop and placed some stuff about it on their website. Here’s a link to it: https://roughtrade.com/gb/books/the-shrewd-idiot

The story in The Shrewd Idiot predates the start of Rough Trade’s trading (1976) as the book’s about my days between Burnley & Exeter & Bournemouth between 1969-73. And I have it on good authority that the book takes you back to the early 1970s, like a time machine.

After my gig to launch the book at Colchester Arts Centre I had a debrief with the Honorary Doctor who runs tha place and he said I should cut it to 20 minutes and he’ll consider finding it a slot sometime. That gives me incentive to go back to my drawing board and tighten the whole thing up. I learnt a great deal doing it there and I know what not to do next time and what I’d aim to do to improve it.

JAt & KC almost done
John Atkins, Dylan Thomas & Ken Campbell meet to discuss alien life out there.

Talking Colchester there’s an exhibition of work by the members of The Colchester Art Society on at the Minories and I had two prints accepted and hung. They did not hang my surreal portrait of John Atkins talking about UFOs with Ken Campbell cos it was rather big, which is a shame, cos John was one of the town’s favourite authors ever. The bloke smoking is the ghost of Dylan Thomas who John used to play darts with in London when he was editor of Tribune. Here’s the obit I helped prepare for the Guardian.


Ken appeared at Colchester Arts Centre several times and was one of the HonDoctor’s favourite ever performers. They’re both up in the clouds now talking to their hearts’ content. Bless them both, I loved them both.

Someone else we loved, Pauline, a friend for most of the years we’ve lived in Essex, (who used to teach in the Maldon area before moving to Colchester), died last week from the effects of cancer. Pauline was renowned for her dry wit and for ‘calling a pot black,’ because she pulled no punches when commenting on hypocrisy and false values… she also called her black cat Boudicca. Sadly she won’t be able to go to her second daughter’s wedding in a few weeks’ time, which she was hoping to do, but she was there to help her daughter choose the dress. Bless her too. She’ll be watching from a safe distance.

That reminds me of a lovely story about the great physicist Richard Feynman. He had married a woman who was the love of his life but she contracted a life shortening condition whilst still quite young. Feynman continued to communicate to her after she died and eventually sent her a parcel on which he put, ‘Address unknown’. Saying,

“My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.


PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.”


That’s beautiful, like Feynman was too. He makes science seem possible, he enthused me to look at science AND he played bongos. On that bong I shall finish.

a snow on buda sm
Buddha in the snow today outside my house

And as the snow takes over throughout Britain, if you find yourself hunkering down with not so much to do, why not go back to look at this blArt I did summarising my year of 2015 in which I became an OPA (Opsimath Performance Artist). https://apulhed.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/lookin-back/


Of Self & Circumstance

We are victims and beneficiaries* of self & circumstance. *A new character, an optimist called Benny Fisher-Rees? ©pete kennedy, watch it!

We arrive with whatever faculties we are blessed or cursed with, then ‘life’ offers up whatever circumstances it happens and we learn or unlearn from them. I love that saying attributed to Arnold Palmer, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. It’s so true. It’s not so much what you’ve got, it’s more the what you do with it that makes the difference. My old headmaster, for whom the lack of respect is mutual, thought I had very little to offer, although he tried several times to beat some sense into me from the bottom up, in fact the welts from one side of my thighs to the other which changed colour over the next few days from red to blue to brown to purple were a kindly premonitional introduction to Abstract Expressionists like Rothko. I have tried to make the best of the little I had according to him. Not done bad for a poor boy from a 50’s housing estate built to house the riff raff post second world war baby boom.63 now and I have had one article published and in a world where every little helps the editor saying, “…and it looks good. It’s a very entertaining read.” was like manna from heaven because affirmation is hard to come by, for a poor boy. Today I found a note saying that someone called Carla Saunders, in San Francisco area, liked my earlier blog called Hemmed-In. More manna from a mama? Oddly my birth mama lives or did in the San Francisco area, she’ll be in her mid-eighties now, and I think maybe I am still trying to please her though I never saw her since I was 2 but that is down to circumstance.

So I want to say something (summat) about my writing (style/process/ability) in this blog. In fact what I shall write below is the way I have kept a journal now for 44 yearns. My journals are full of these swopping my ideas back and forth (like that beautiful passage in the film Lord of the Rings where Gollum is squawking to his self) passages intermingling what I know already with new knowledges etc. Weighing and balancing up my take on things. So, developing the theme of circumstance, I may have said to myself oh kay had one published stop now when you’re (yor) winning, but no I carried on and there’s a second article coming out soon and am looking to do a third, 4th  and on, but that leads to all the hassle and disappointments which go with the pitch. Heh Heh (said the mouse Ignatsz(?) in Krazy Kat – Herriman’s comic is still the beat EVER). So I make pitches and so many editors ignore them, don’t answer or say no. Bukowski must have felt like this? Well no, not really. But John Kennedy Toole (JKT) did and he felt so badly he took his own life purportedly cos he couldn’t find an editor willing to publish his manuscript for A Confession Of Dunces. His mother touted it around and one publisher loved it enough to publish it. I know the frustration of doing stuff and seeking backing etc in the field and not getting it in any meaningful way (see my track record with the arts council, oops sorry there is none). Luckily I believe in the Dalai Lama’s advice, ‘Never Give Up’, altho I did decades ago with the arts council and all of their ilk. I did weaken recently with a local landmark gallery and they declined my pitch for a paltry sum saying that it, my bid, wasn’t deemed to further my career, what career, so never no more will I darken the door of begging for backing. No thanks pleez it only meks me sneeze (ta Ringo). JKT’s title to his posthumous book was taken from one of the most influential writers of all time, Johnathon Swift’s “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Which reminds me of one of my previous titles for a proposed book, “I Told You I Wer’ A Genius”, which will one day soon(ish) be coming out in a series of artisbuks^, or if not I want it on my gravestone!.

^I get so fed up of typing the words artit’s books, look see how hard it is!

I just realised…

I have realised the other day 14.12.13 how and why the late Layer based writer John Atkins couldn’t see how my writings didn’t need a narrative. (In fact the narrative in my writings is my life.) But. Reading Umberto Eco’s ‘Open Work’ has explained the fundamental difference between John and me. He worked from A-Z. I don’t. His narrative in his books is very much pre 20th century in concept; begin middle end. Mine is more an open work; rarely begins, all middle, sans end. I can bring his comments about narrative (how he suggested Apulhed in Wonderland  & I can appreciate his realisation (which he had instinctively) that my work  was (a bit) more like (say) the American ‘school’- Kerouac etc, whose poetry didn’t have capitals etc, more like the concrete poems of the late 19th century French and later Dieter Roth et al.

Apparently Ozick  http://www.rtlibrary.org/the%20shawl.pdf said ”All writing is presumption of course, since no one knows what it is like to be another human being.” and I’ve been looking at the art of writing and giving speeches with some deep and fascinating discoveries. As is my wont I am reading many books at once which include Barthes, Eco and seeing Dot Lessing on ‘Imagine’ the other night, well not her her ghost, well it was her when it was filmed but the audience only ever saw a ghostal tv image and then she died so the ghost in the machine is ‘real’ (?). Anyway so here is what I found:

In Eco’s Open Work  ed. Robey, ‘…to test Valery’s declaration “il n’ya pas de vrai sens d’un texte” (there is no true meaning of a text) Tindall eventually concludes that a work of art is a construct which anyone at all, including its author, can put to any use whatsoever, as he chooses.’


So, that makes my finding out that Barthes had ‘around eight hundred little notecards…containing bibliographic indications, some summaries, notes …the whole accompanied by several commentaries, cassettes…computer discs…on which are recorded…the totality of 26 hrs of oral presentation…in accordance with his view that written discourse should take precedence over the oral form’ most interesting. http://www.scribd.com/doc/36196704/Roland-Barthes-The-Neutral I do a ‘talk’ which is much more than a talk, it’s a piece of performance art, the likes of which I’ve been putting on sporadically the length and breadth of this fair country since 1973. What fascinates is the way real life situations as opposed to sitting in front of a computer typing in badly generate incredibleness. I was one of the lucky ones to see several times Ken Campbell’s ‘talks’. WOW, there was a GENIUS. Maybe I shall do a blog about him sometime, one of the greatest story tellers of all time, what influenced li’l ole moi meme self ‘ere, din’t ee.


My portrait (accepted but not hung by the RA) of John Atkins & Ken Campbell having coffee after west end production ‘Art’.

And then there is Bill, of the Drummond clan.Doris Lessing said, “…a writer…a machine for exploring experience, we plunge into experiences”. and A S Byatt says Lessing created a ‘Fragmented form’ thru The Golden Notebook.

(Watch out for my forthcoming article in The Blue Notebook) I would love to get all that material and create an artisbuk! More to the point it’ll influence or rather support my own ideas on such productions and on how one can present speeches. My work has always been fragmented, by life itself, and I am now ready to take it out, to have the experience of putting my words images and artefacts in front of folk and sharing their reactions et al. By the way for a small fee and expenses I can come to ‘talk’ to your group.